Christie’s, Bonhams and Phillips Bring the Bling to Hong Kong

An ode to beauty: Diamonds of distinctive shapes and hues complemented a smattering of spectacular colored stones.

July 30, 2023  |  Anthony DeMarco
Auctions HK July August Magazine USED 073023

The Magnificent Jewels auction at Christie’s featured a trio of fancy-colored diamonds, exceptional colored gems and — being a Hong Kong sale — fine examples of jadeite. However, one of the top lots in the May 27 sale was an unusually shaped colorless diamond that triggered a bidding war and nearly doubled its high estimate.

The 21.75-carat, D-color, internally flawless diamond fetched more than HKD 30.6 million ($3.9 million), shooting past its HKD 18 million ($2.3 million) high estimate. The auction house didn’t mention it, but the rectangular-shaped diamond with the extra-large table featured the Ashoka cut, a proprietary cut by New York diamond firm William Goldberg.

Adding to the piece’s value was the mounting: a finely crafted platinum ring by Mitsuo Kaji, an accomplished Japanese designer who owned the diamond, according to William Goldberg’s Benjamin Goldberg. “It was sold 20 years ago,” Goldberg says. “Kaji held on to it for many years. We were trying to buy it back from him, but we couldn’t. We were very excited to see it at auction.”

The company made an offer on the gem at the Christie’s auction but quickly fell out of the running when a bidding battle erupted among three Asian private collectors, Goldberg recalls. “From our perspective, it was still very exciting [that] it achieved such a high price.”

True stunners

The diamond also wowed gemologist Gary Roskin of the Roskin Gem News Report. “When you look at the diamond’s report, you may say, ‘It’s not for me,’ but when you look at the diamond, it was spectacular,” he says. “You should not judge the beauty of a diamond based on the report. This is a great example of that.”

Beauty appeared to be the focus in the curation of the Christie’s sale, according to Roskin, as well as at the Phillips and Bonhams Hong Kong Jewels and Jadeite sales, which took place respectively on May 23 and 28.

“We often get wrapped up with the biggest or the most vivid or most unusual, or a jewelry designer’s name or big house name,” he reflects. “Sometimes we forget to look at the piece and just say, ‘Wow, that is really stunning.’ You saw that with a lot of the results.”

Three of a kind

Roskind also points to the breadth and depth of hues that were on offer in Hong Kong. “I’m impressed with all of the auction houses and how much color there was.”

Three of the four top lots at Christie’s featured fancy-colored diamonds. The piece that earned the highest total was a pear-shaped brilliant-cut, 4.83-carat, fancy-vivid-blue, internally flawless diamond in a diamond and gold ring that fetched more than HKD 68.9 million ($8.8 million).

The number-three item was a pear modified brilliant-cut, 8.92-carat, fancy-vivid-yellow-orange, internally flawless diamond between two colorless diamonds on a gold and platinum ring. It realized more than HKD 31.8 million ($4.1 million), just beating its high estimate. Right behind it was a 4.08-carat diamond that sold for HKD 31.2 million ($4 million), within estimates for the pear modified brilliant-cut, fancy-intense-pink, internally flawless stone.

“I saw the vivid blue. It was very beautiful and made a nice price,” Goldberg says. “The vivid-yellow-orange, pear shaped diamond was beautiful as well and made a ridiculous price. It’s always private collectors buying these goods, not dealers.”

Paraibas, opals and spinels

Contemporary designer Kat Florence had two jewels that stood out for Roskin at the Bonhams sale in Hong Kong. The first was a pendant necklace with a round, 103.04-carat, greenish-blue Paraiba-type tourmaline of Mozambican origin. It brought in HKD 1.9 million ($244,266), about $2,300 per carat. Had the gem been from the original Paraiba mines in Brazil, it could have garnered $5,000 to $10,000 per carat, Roskin estimates.

He was more impressed with another Florence piece, a diamond ring in 18-karat yellow gold with an elongated cushion-shaped, 9.08-carat black opal. It sold for HKD 396,800 ($50,772). A pair of diamond pavé earrings bearing oval-shaped red spinels of 9.91 and 9.17 carats also caught his eye. The jewels achieved more than HKD 1.1 million ($146,764).

“Whoever curated the Bonhams auction did a great job of mixing up a lot of different colors and gems,” Roskin comments. “Typically, you’ll see lots of emeralds, rubies and sapphires and not a lot of anything else. But this was a nice mix of color, with some real impressive pieces.”

Big-name houses

At the Phillips auction, the top two lots came as no surprise to Roskin. The first was a Bulgari diamond necklace centering a cushion-shaped, 118.35-carat Sri Lankan sapphire pendant.

“That Bulgari necklace was stunning,” he declares. “There was no doubt it was going to be the number-one piece in the auction. It has the name and size, and it was beautiful.”

The second-highest lot was a diamond ring by celebrated Tiffany & Co. designer Jean Schlumberger, boasting a 6.26-carat Kashmir sapphire.

In addition to their beauty, these pieces and others showed the continued strength of the historic and contemporary high-jewelry houses, Roskin says. “I’m always impressed with how well the big-name houses do. It’s because they really know how to design jewelry.”

This article is from the July-August 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

Image: Bulgari necklace in 18-karat white gold with diamonds and a cushion-cut, 118.35-carat, unheated Sri Lankan sapphire. (Phillips)

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Auctions HK July August Magazine USED 073023 Christie’s, Bonhams and Phillips Bring the Bling to Hong Kong

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